SciFiPulse recently caught up with Ricardo Victoria. His work includes Tempest Blades: The Withered King, as well as other short stories. Victoria also runs a blog . In this interview he discusses fantasy tropes, what separates bad fantasy from good fantasy and who he would choose for his own Fellowship.
SFP: What do you think hasn’t been done yet in fantasy that could be done?
Ricardo Victoria: Talking about fantasy in general (and leaving aside Urban Fantasy that has a whole other set of requirements), embracing different cultural inspirations, instead of relying on the same old European Middle Ages inspiration and clichés, daring to try using different cultures and combinations (such as the addition of technology) to create more original, different worlds and plots. The sad thing is that this is not new. Japanese anime, has been doing it for quite some time. POC authors have been doing it for a long time –especially with the current wave of Afrofuturism, such as N.K. Jemisin.
So as I said, it’s a matter of the market –readers, editors, publishers- needing to embrace that diversity and being more open to different point of views, voices and experiences.
SFP: What do you think makes a good magic system that doesn’t break the story and render some characters overpowered?
Ricardo Victoria: Balances and counterbalances. Magic without any kind of cost for the caster border of Deux Ex Machina solutions or in power creeping. I believe, mostly due the –admittedly not that deep- research I did in books about magic, that the use of magic should follow a set of basic, simple rules that establish an effect, a cost and a counter effect. Even for those characters to whom the skill of magic comes naturally, there should be a cost for using it. The same applies for using magic provided by a deity (good or bad), as in that case, the process of casting includes a contract of sorts with the lender of the power.
It’s what in alchemy was known as the ‘Law of Equivalence”. And by cost I don’t mean necessarily using material objects to pay for it, but some sort of side effect of using the magic: maybe it takes a toll on the user’s body, maybe there is a set of deals with otherworldly entities that require payment after the caster’s death, maybe it can only be used through series of rituals and sacrifices, maybe reality doesn’t like being reshaped by magic and generates a backlash effect. Maybe a combination of all of the above. Even gods have to pay a price.
SFP: Your fantasy novel ‘Tempest Blades: The Withered King’ has been compared to the Final Fantasy video game series. Do you think that games can offer a means of storytelling that books and comics can’t?
Ricardo Victoria: Maybe it’s because I came from the ‘school’ of writers that were tabletop RPG players at first, but I think that games in general and videogame in particular are an art form on their own (to the chagrin of Spielberg I guess). They allow for a sort of shared or communal experience when telling a story, which stems from the early humanity storytelling methods. A videogame is relatively more railroaded plot-wise than a tabletop RPG, for sure, but it is still a shared experience between developer and player.
Now, videogames have certain advantages native of the nature of the medium, such as cut scenes, music, input from the players, and tend to be more innovative in terms of worldbuilding (due to the need to keep the player’s attention), but also have their own disadvantages (like needing more requirements to be enjoyed, compared to a book or a comic). In a way, videogames are like cousins to comics and books. They have the same aims of sharing a story, of eliciting emotions on the reader/player, but achieve them in different ways, all equally valid.
SFP: Following on from that question do you think that fantasy novels, comics and games have their own cliches? If so how can writers working in each medium keep things fresh and interesting?
Ricardo Victoria: Everything in writing has clichés, regardless of the medium where it is transmitted. The thing with clichés and their previous form, the tropes, is that in one hand, they serve as a cultural shorthand to put both writer and reader on the same page. There is a fine line in the use of tropes that when crossed, they become clichés, and that’s when readers balk at them. Some of them have been so overused by now that they became tiresome.
A prime example is that of the ‘Chosen One’. So writers, if they are planning to use a particular trope/cliché, have to be aware of that use and understand the core concept of it, so they can play with it, twist it, subvert it, deconstruct it, or criticize it to a good effect, in a way that contributes to the story. Which is the most important thing. A storm cliché won’t make up for a good story, or a good message. So the vital part is to have a clear idea of which story concept you want to write, what’s the core message you want to communicate, so you can use the tropes as tools or building blocks that help you to convey in the most efficient and engaging manner the messages you want to share with the audience.
SFP: Are there any other genres you would like to explore?
Ricardo Victoria: Given that I have written science fiction, horror, and weird western stories before, I guess the genre I would like to explore is slice of life with either some thriller or urban fantasy stories. Maybe a cozy mystery.
SFP: What do you think separates great fantasy from mediocre fantasy from bad fantasy?
Ricardo Victoria: Great fantasy is engaging, is wild, is trailblazing, is imaginative, leaves the reader wanting for more, but more important, gives the reader a place or sense of ‘belonging’, gives them hope (even if the end is bittersweet) and discusses important social topics (could be larger issues, or more personal issues) to convey a message and promote reflection and hopefully, action. Maybe it won’t be recognized as such at first (or even during the life of the author), but future generations will.
Mediocre fantasy just goes to the same places, the same old, tired plots, by taking stuff that already worked and just gives them a new coat of paint, but doesn’t really try to discuss anything or convey a message. Bad fantasy is just a blatant attempt at a cash grab, riding the waves of what’s currently popular. It doesn’t even make the attempt at an effort that mediocre fantasy tries.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
Ricardo Victoria: Currently, I’m working on a couple of projects. The big one is the final edits alongside my publisher of my second novel “The Cursed Titans”, a sequel of my debut novel “The Withered King”, within the Tempest Blades series. It’s meant to be published in August of this year. As well I was invited to write a horror story for an episode of The Wicked Library podcast, so I’m trying to get it done this month as it is meant to be recorded this year. And if day job allows it, I hope to start working on the next Tempest Blades novels.
SFP: And finally, if you could assemble a fellowship of 9 characters from across all fantasy, who would they be and why?
Ricardo Victoria: Hmmm, tough question as you don’t specify what kind of fantasy or if it is limited only to literature. That said (and not using my own characters of course)… probably Lina Inverse (from the novels/anime of Slayers), Tyrion (I like his GoT version), Aragorn, The Librarian (from Discworld), Tifa (from Final Fantasy VII,) Xena, Geralt of Rivia, Falcor (from the Neverending story), and Toph (from the Last Airbender) I’m trying to get a good mix of leadership, realism, idealism, kindness and loyalty. People that are not only strong (as fighters or wizards), but smart and good hearted, from different walks of life that know the ups and downs. Because if you have to save the world, you might want to have someone that will come through during the hard times and have your back, someone that keeps in mind what you are fighting for.
SciFiPulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Ricardo Victoria for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
Ricardo’s Twitter is @Winged_Leo